A Christmas Story

December 25, 2011            Luke 2:1-20

I think I remember saying this around Christmas time another year here, but one of my favorite Christmas movies is “A Christmas Story.”
The main character in the movie is an 8 or 9 year old boy named Ralphie, and all he wants for Christmas is a “Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock”.
However, every time he expresses his wish, he’s met with the same objection by a responsible adult.  Whether it was the Santa at the mall or his school teacher or his own mother; their response was always the same;  “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
I’ll be honest, I don’t like the movie because it’s so well done, or because the plot is so riveting.
I like it because I can relate to Ralphie.  He knows exactly what he wants; and he’s convinced it’s going to turn his life around.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll spoil it for you; he ends up getting the bb gun on Christmas morning.
All his waiting finally paid off.  He gets exactly what he wants, exactly when he wanted it.
After all the other presents were unwrapped and it looked like there was nothing left, after he was forced to try on and model the pink pajamas that his aunt gave him, his father finally has him pull a package from behind the tree…and there it is.
All his dreams had come true.
And I’m going to suggest this morning that this is how most of us think of Christmas.
We either get what we want, or we don’t.
Our waiting either pays off, or it doesn’t.
We use language like “Jesus was the best Christmas present ever”, or “I’m so thankful that God gave us Jesus,”…or we try to make the case that the reason we give gifts at Christmas time is because God gave us so much when he gave us Jesus.
There’s an element of truth in all of that…but to hear us talk sometimes, you’d think Jesus was the red rider bb gun with the compass in the stock that we had been looking for.
The truth is, he’s more like the pink pajamas!  🙂
How’s that for a Christmas message?!
What God did through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ was nothing humanity wanted, expected, or looked for.
Think of it; the Holy God being counted in the census; alongside shepherds, carpenters, and teenage mothers like Mary.
It’s an awkward fit, to say the least.
In fact, the advent of God’s reign is still an embarrassment for those mainly interested in bigger and better bb guns.
Our hopes are either fulfilled, or they go on unfulfilled.
Either way, next year (or next week) we find something else to want.
That’s not Christmas.
That’s advertising.
I’ve still got the hockey stick and the puck that I wanted one year.
I remember that Christmas, because I had learned how to play hockey on my grandpa’s pond.  My brothers and dad and I would use sticks and a chunk of ice or something, and I thought it was the best game ever.
So I really really wanted a real hockey stick and a real puck.
And I got them!
But you know what?–by spring when the ice melted, they weren’t worth a whole lot to me.
And by the next winter, I found something else I had to have.
It’s not that wanting things is bad, and it’s not that getting what you want is bad.
All I’m trying to say this morning is that Jesus isn’t what we wanted!
That’s the whole message of the gospel; that while we were yet sinners, Christ came to set us free.  Because of the infinite value God has placed on every human life, he stepped into human flesh.  Because of His infinite love and our infinite worth…not his wrath or judgment.
Last week I said that God doesn’t choose…rather, God has chosen.
This week I want to say that Christmas cannot be “had” because it “has happened”.
It is finished, and no force on earth or in the heavens above can make it unfinished or undone.
The Word is still being made flesh within us.
God has still chosen us like Mary, normal people like us; like all of us; to carry his likeness; to reflect and restore the infinite worth he sees in each and every person.
Things like mercy, grace, and forgiveness are the only Christmas gifts that are truly worth giving.  The rest is nice, but doesn’t really, finally matter, you know?
The Spirit of God still appears in unexpected places…namely in you and me and the people we value least in the world.
The question is how we’ll raise this Word made Flesh within us…for as Diane has already said, the Holy Spirit in us is still as vulnerable now as he was on that first Christmas morning.
May we, like Mary and Joseph, stand in awe of the good news message spoken by shepherds; awed by the Holy work God has already done, and joining Him in it.
Merry Christmas!  🙂  

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